When Genealogy and History Meet
While all family history researchers love to find surprising information during our searches it is doubly exciting when research leads to the discovery of documents of great historical importance.
One such discovery was made recently at the London College of Arms.
It is within the London College of Arms where the official registrations of Coats of Arms and pedigrees for the titled nobility of Great Britain are held. It is also the place to go if there is a knight or a Royal in your family tree.
Family History and Armorial Bearings
A Coat of Arms or “Armorial Bearings” are a mater of heredity that can only be born by a direct male descendant and legitimate heir of the person to whom they were first granted.
At the London College of Arms, the individual known as the “Officer in Waiting” acts as advisor to those wishing to research their paternal line. His role is to inform petitioners of costs and give direction concerning genealogical research. It is however, the persons known as Heralds who since medieval times have acted as genealogists and in fact developed scientific genealogical methods.
Heralds or “Officers of Arms” are experts at delving into centuries old manuscripts to search out pedigrees listing armigerous ancestors.
The London College of Arms has in their official collection, approximately 750 volumes of manuscripts listing armorials and pedigrees for almost every generation of British, Scottish, Irish and Welsh nobles from 1530 to 1688. Apart from this main collection exists an unofficial collection of particular genealogical and heraldic importance that dates from an even earlier period.
It is among the latter collection that the recent discovery was made of a rare accounting document that recorded the undertakings of Italian bankers in early 15th century London. The document, belonging to Domenicio Villani & Partners, a Florentine merchant-banking company, was found nearly concealed under a coat of arms. Information contained in the papers gives great insight into the history of trade in medieval Britain.
You might wonder what these papers were doing in the London College of Arms. That is actually no mystery as during medieval times, good quality paper was scarce and repurposing was quite commonplace.